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How Scientology sets up its members to find themselves helpless in court

ScalesWe’ve provided a lot of detailed, step-by-step coverage of numerous lawsuits involving the Church of Scientology in recent years. They tend to involve large dollar amounts (as in the case of the Garcias, who say they were defrauded of about $440,000), or years of abuse (as in the case of Laura DeCrescenzo), or major legal maneuvers from Scientology’s top officials and lawyers (as in the case of Monique Rathbun’s harassment suit in Texas).

But today we have something on the other end of the scale. A legal action involving a modest request for a refund that took place this week in a Phoenix small claims court, and which once again proved how Scientology has US courts tied up in knots because of the draconian nature of the contracts it makes members sign.

We heard about the case from the plaintiff, Ann Ashley, whose involvement in Scientology was brief and recent. In October, she began paying for Scientology services at the Church of Scientology of Arizona, which is the “Ideal Org” that was opened in Scottsdale on June 23, 2012. (And we’ll never forget a certain fundraising video for that facility.)

Anyway, Ann then put more money on her account in January in order to pay for the Purification Rundown, Scientology’s unscientific sauna-and-vitamins quackery. In total, she made four payments through February that left her with a balance of $2,510 toward future courses. But then in March, she decided she was done with Scientology and knew that she wouldn’t be using that money that she’d put on account.

So she asked for it back.

Scientology refused, so Ann took the church to small claims court. In its motion to dismiss the case, Scientology’s attorneys pointed out that Ann, like other members of the organization, had been required to sign a long and detailed contract before she could do any kind of Scientology services. And what a document it is. You can just see the sheep being led to slaughter with language like this…



The language here is especially rich when you understand that Hubbard’s book that launched his movement was titled ‘Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.’ And that the Purification Rundown, which Ann paid for, was dreamed up by Hubbard in 1977 as his scientific approach to drug rehabilitation, and that he actually expected to win a Nobel Prize for it. But the language in these contracts, designed by lawyers looking for ways to trap Scientologists in ironclad legal manacles, is spread thick with claims about the “religious” nature of the talking to ashtrays, touching walls, and staring contests you’ll be doing as a member of the group.

Scientology’s attorneys were only too happy to point out specific language from the contract that Ann signed…

I understand and acknowledge that donations I make to the Church are the property of the Church to use at its discretion for its religious and charitable purposes. I understand that donations to the Church are generally not refundable and that I am bound by the policies of the Claims Verification Board…In the unlikely event that there should arise any dispute between me and the Church…I recognize, understand and agree that any such dispute by its very nature is a matter of religious doctrine, which therefore will and must be resolved solely and exclusively by the ecclesiastical authorities and religious procedures of Scientology. I therefore recognize and agree that I cannot and will not sue in civil courts or seek a jury trial in connection with any Church of Scientology…

In her oral argument in court yesterday, Ashley tried to convince the judge that she wasn’t asking for money spent on services she’d received, but only for money she’d banked and would never use — and that her request had nothing to do with religion.

“The entire proceeding lasted about ten minutes and was dismissed,” Ann tells us. “The judge said the contracts were clearly done by an attorney, so I was bound by them. He did not address whether the money was actually ‘donated.’ The org’s Director of Special Affairs, Virginia Leason, and her attorney, Jack Wilenchik, were present.”

Ann says she picked up a form that will ask the judge to reconsider, hoping that it will at least force the judge to spell out more completely his reasoning. In the meantime, she thought it might be helpful to share the documents in her case with the readers of the Bunker, hoping that they’ll at least engender some good discussion.

We thank her for that. In the meantime, we marvel at Scientology’s ability to swipe the hard-earned money of people who decide they no longer want to take Scientology courses that they’ve already paid for. What a racket, eh?

Ashley vs. Scientology, motion to dismiss

Ashley vs. Scientology, contracts signed by Ashley


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Joy Villa is on the cover of the Paris edition of Celebrity magazine! She’s a star!


Taiwan, where Scientology makes sense!


Tokyo’s Ideal Org has its ribbon up! Festivities should be starting soon (we write this at 3:52 am Eastern time)…


And the ribbon’s down!




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 26: Melbourne

Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4)


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 7, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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